What Were the Achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary?

Sir Edmund Hillary (July 20, 1919 - January 11, 2008) was one of the two men who first climbed Mount Everest all the way to the summit. He was also a member of the first expedition to cross Antarctica and reach the South Pole over land. Beyond these astounding achievements, Hillary also rendered aid to the Nepalese people, helping develop their society.

Portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary Portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary
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Sir Edmund Hillary: What He Achieved

Being the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest is quite the accomplishment. Hillary was part of a two-man expedition that sought to reach the summit two days after another duo failed. Here are some of the details of their trek:

  • Hillary was the first man ever to reach the top of Everest. He did so on May 29, 1953 at 11:30 a.m.
  • He was immediately followed by Tenzing Norgay of Nepal.
  • They were the only two men out of the four-man expedition to successfully make it all the way to the top.
  • Hillary left behind a crucifix and Norgay made a Buddhist offering.
  • At 29,028 feet above sea level, these two men were at the highest point on Earth.
  • Because of the lack of oxygen, they could only marvel at the view for 15 minutes before beginning the treacherous journey back down the mountain.
  • For this accomplishment, Edmund Hillary was knighted in 1953, as was John Hunt, the leader of the group.
  • Throughout the 1960s, Hillary returned to the every region on various other expeditions, but never attempted a second climb to the summit of Everest.

Edmund Hillary and the South Pole

Few people can say they’ve crossed through the South Pole. Approximately five years after the Everest expedition, Hillary moved on to challenging Antarctica.

  • He was in charge of the New Zealand section of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition from 1955 to 1958.
  • Hillary arrived at the South Pole via tractor on January 4, 1958.
  • He and his comrades were the first to scale Mount Herschel at 10,941 feet.
  • The expedition was the first to cross the Antarctic overland via the South Pole.

Humanitarian Efforts of Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary will forever be known as a humble and kind man. Neither the media attention nor being knighted by Queen Elizabeth distracted him from giving back to his favorite people: the Nepalese.

  • Hillary was always concerned about the plight of the Nepalese people, especially the sherpas.
  • He served as New Zealand’s high commissioner to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh from 1985 to 1988.
  • Hillary founded the Himalayan Trust in 1960, resulting in the construction of clinics, hospitals, and 17 schools.
  • These projects needed supplies and equipment, so two airstrips were built. This allowed more tourists and mountain climbers into the region, and soon the people were cutting down large amounts of forest.
  • Hillary appealed to the government to make the area around Mount Everest a national park, but the government didn't have the knowledge or funds to make that happen.
  • Hillary persuaded the New Zealand government to render aid.
  • In 1995, Hillary received the Order of the Garter.
  • In 2003, on the 50th anniversary of his ascent of Mount Everest, Hillary was made an honorary citizen of Nepal.
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Himalayan Honor

There’s no denying this new Zealander had a special place in his heart for the people of Nepal. He embraced the natural beauty of their country and worked hard to ensure the citizens were able to live their best lives. For a chronological perspective on the details of this humble and honorable man’s life, check out the Edmund Hillary Timeline on YourDictionary.